The city of Hogansville will apply for $175,000 in federal money to aid residents in bringing substandard houses up to code.
The city normally has applied for the CHIP grant (Community Home Investment Program) just for low-income seniors, but is expanding the grant application this year to cover those who meet the low income requirements and are disabled.
“The age restriction is excluding a lot of people who need the help,” City Manager James Woods said.
The grant funds would require the city to come up with about $26,000 in matching funds.
“If we’re going to improve our housing stock, we’ve got to address the needs of low-income residents,” Woods said. “As long as people are getting productive help from the grant money, then I think we should pursue it.”
The city also will begin to pursue other ways to tear down vacant, dilapidated houses in the city, a longstanding problem in Hogansville. Woods presented a slide show to council members Monday night, showing a number of houses that have been occupied by nothing but kudzu for years.
Woods wants to pursue “clean and lien” options on several homes, where the city would go in and tear down the house, clean up the property, and put a lien on the title for when it is sold in hopes of recovering some of its costs.
However, city officials say even a lien on the property doesn’t mean Hogansville would get its money back, particularly if the house is in foreclosure and there are several lienholders. The average cost of tearing down a house is $6,500, and while Hogansville has budgeted to do two or three properties a year, it barely makes a dent in the issue.
Woods suggested Monday the city pursue creating a “land bank.” The process would be similar to clean and lien, but it would put Hogansville in a better possible to possibly redevelop or sell properties and recover its investment.
“If they were put back into productive use, all the properties I have showed you could be built on,” Woods said. “A land bank is almost unlimited, what you could do with the properties.”
The city could build new houses on the property and rent them through the land bank authority, sell them, or sell the empty properties to a developer who could do the same. The properties also could be sold to an adjacent landowner who wanted a bigger lot.
“This makes the city more livable for the neighbors now,” said Councilman Jack Leidner.
Councilman Bobby Joe Frazier said he’d suggested the land bank four years ago and wants the city to look into it. He also suggested other methods, like giving the landowner a tax break for donating the property to the city.
Woods said that was “worth pursuing.”
“People will often take a tax break over cash,” he said.